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Upscale Dining in Charleston SC

McCrady's is a favorite of mine, too. Coming through Charleston from San Francisco on our way to our yearly Pawley's trip the very same weekend (Aug 27th-ish) and always make a point to stay in Charleston for a few days to eat. Will second the recs for High Cotton!

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McCrady's Restaurant
2 Unity Alley, Charleston, SC 29401

Aug 17, 2010
Sallie in Southeast

table setting question

I love my chargers. They are a complimentary color and pattern to my other plates; in my china, every plate is different so the charger is sort of important to the overall look. That said, even though they look good with the dessert plates, I usually remove them before dessert is served.

DEPENDING. Because: sometimes I use a tablecloth and sometimes I don't. The wood on my table (1820s) is really gorgeous so I like to leave it exposed for two reasons: 1) it's pretty and adds another reflective surface, and 2) people often assume that there are pads under a tablecloth and I haven't had pads made for the table so I've found they're more careful about things like putting a bottle of sweating white wine on the wine coaster. So in that case, I use round cork trivets (from Ikea) under the chargers to protect the wood from scratching. For some reason, some people scoot their plates around on the table and the cork impedes that. I used to use the thin foam plate separators but found that after the first attempt at scooting off the cork, which is thicker, and clanking the plate on the table, they stopped fidgeting with their tableware. ANYWAY, I don't like the cork being exposed, so usually I take the cork away with the charger and hope people don't scoot their dessert plates around. But it sort of exposes the man behind the curtain so to speak, so sometimes I leave the charger. The general issue is that you don't want gravy spots on the chargers next to your tart or whatever, so if everyone has clean chargers, sometimes I leave them.

Jun 05, 2009
Sallie in Not About Food

Wine Pairings at the French Laundry

I agree--I think that the half-bottle strategy works best. Glass of champagne, then a white half, then a red half, maybe an espresso instead of a glass of dessert wine? It's a lot, but a half bottle is about 2ish glasses? So you end up having ~3 glasses of wine at lunch. Hmm. Sort of like a 2-martini lunch, right? Walk down the street to the Bouchon bakery and get a double espresso.

It's better to drive out either after 5 or before 3. 3-4 is when all of the vineyard workers are getting off work and the second honeymooners are racing to get to one last place before it closes, so there's a lot of traffic and you're more likely to get into a fender bender if you're in traffic. You want smooth sailing.

You could go south into Napa proper and do a little window shopping or go to the outlets. Don't go north on 29 to kill time. The traffic after a boozy lunch will drain the life out of you.

Jun 05, 2009
Sallie in San Francisco Bay Area

Cleaning fish - tips appreciated

Seriously--delicious. I would keep the egg sac too, dust it with cornmeal, and fry it with the fish. Yum yum.

Jun 05, 2009
Sallie in Home Cooking

Too much sour cream

I often make stroganoff if I have leftover sour cream. You can go high-brow with some tenderloin tips or low-brow with no-bun hamburgers.

I also like using sour cream in corn bread. I have this recipe:

2 eggs
1 cup (8oz) sour cream
small can creamed corn (4oz)--usually sub a little milk and a handful of frozen corn
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp salt
1 tbs baking powder

Mix all ingredients together and pour into an 8x8 buttered/Pam'ed pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 400F.

You could make a ton of cornbread muffins from the same recipe and freeze them. You can pop them in the oven one or two at a time to heat/defrost in foil.

Or you could make a similar cornbread topping but with jalapenos and cheese and make chili pies. I.e., take leftover chili and put the cornbread topping on it. Then bake and serve with...sour cream! I have used this recipe from epicurious as a base and fooled around with it: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... This chili is good but I use my own too. I often sub sour cream for the milk and butter. And I usually make it in 2-cup souffle ramekins instead of one big casserole.

A lot of quick breads use sour cream. Orange-walnut, banana walnut etc. Ina Garten's sour cream coffee cake is good. Look on the food network site.

And I like to make her smoked salmon dip (tweaked a bit) to serve with toasted pita:

~1 part sour cream to 1 part softened cream cheese, smoked salmon cut into small pieces, chives, dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Jun 05, 2009
Sallie in Home Cooking

Plastic Wrap to Line a Terrine?!

Yes, am familiar with this method. The reason that I mentioned the cake was that the temperature set-up was the same for this person's cake recipe as for the terrine recipes and the plastic wrap melted to her pan. So am not entirely sure that it is fool-proof.

Jun 05, 2009
Sallie in Home Cooking

are there any reputable wine clubs out there that don't cost an arm and a leg?

You might try MyWinesDirect.com. They don't do a club, but you can buy six-packs that are just white or just red. They change their stock pretty often so you can try different things. I haven't ordered from them for a while, but the times I did, I was pretty happy with the quality. They're "Wednesday wines" generally--good quality everyday wines.

May 28, 2009
Sallie in Wine

Lemon Basil - What to do with it?

Cocktails! Lemon juice, vodka, basil simple syrup, maybe a little club soda depending on whether you go up or rocks, fresh sprig to tickle your nose.

May 28, 2009
Sallie in Home Cooking

About defrosting

I agree that it's better to defrost it first so you can brown it. If you put it in water (still in its wrapper), it will defrost faster without having to nuke it. Water conducts heat more efficiently than air. Will take just a couple of hours.

May 28, 2009
Sallie in Home Cooking

Plastic Wrap to Line a Terrine?!

What oven temp. do you use? Was thinking about dropping the suggested temp (350) a bit.

May 28, 2009
Sallie in Home Cooking

Plastic Wrap to Line a Terrine?!

I'll tell you what--the thing that spooked me was a post on a blog about making a flourless chocolate cake. Same method: water bath, 350F. The plastic melted to the inside of her cake pan and she had to throw it out. So... As I said above, boiling water is not my concern (since it's below the melt point of plastic wrap, 250).

May 28, 2009
Sallie in Home Cooking

Plastic Wrap to Line a Terrine?!

This has been my experience when I make meat pates, too. The ones he suggested using the plastic wrap for were more like quenelle consistency, cheeses, fish mousses, etc. I think it's as much for structural integrity in the unmolding as anything else. Haven't tried it yet...

May 28, 2009
Sallie in Home Cooking

Trip to San Francisco from DC

I have to tell you that I am not surprised you didn't like Aziza. Sorry to get here late, unable to save you from a schlep for mediocre couscous. Generally speaking, I was disappointed in the middle-eastern food available here in SF after moving here from DC. Aziza is pretty good but I wouldn't be knocking down the door to go back. Pretty mediocre overall, IMHO. Anyway, just wanted you to know that I believe you--really.

May 25, 2009
Sallie in San Francisco Bay Area

When is a wine too good to cook with?

This sort of mirrors my experiences. Big juicy California Zinfandel or Cab? Too sugary. Too weird. Sauce comes out flabby. So this counts for Two-Buck-Chuck as well as Silver Oak. Something with a lower alcohol content, minimal oak, higher acidity=good for a braise. Think chianti, pinot, Cote du Rhone. It's not just the cost, it's the varietal and the vinification. The reason that the Two-Buck-Chuck pinot tastes different in a coq au vin than a good Burgundy is not just because they are of vastly different quality. TBC has a fair amount of residual sugar and zero depth. French wines generally have lower sugar and alcohol. So, when I open a disappointing bottle of something French, unless it has truly awful off flavors (band-aids, aaaagh), I know it will make a good pot roast so I vacu-vin it and put it in the fridge.

Similar results for whites, which I usually use for deglazing. DO NOT use a California Chardonnay, especially a cheap one. A lot of cheap chards have fake oak flavoring put into them which is extremely weird tasting in a pan sauce. I wouldn't use a good French chablis for that either, same reason--do you really want to concentrate that oak flavor and pour it on roast chicken? If you must go super-cheap, look for chenin blanc, which is very neutral--no pyrazines like a sauv. blanc and no oak. A lot of old vineyards in CA in the Central Valley are planted to chenin. Gallo et al make it by the boatload. I keep around a magnum in the fridge for deglazing emergencies.

This is all to say that I think if you're braising something for a long time, the wine is going to change. If you are deglazing to make a quick pan sauce, it's not going to change that much.

There was another taste test I read about recently and I can't remember if it was in Gourmet or Cook's Illustrated but they came out much like this NY Times article.

May 25, 2009
Sallie in Home Cooking

Plastic Wrap to Line a Terrine?!

So you've used this method before? I am just skeptical as I have read that plastic wrap's melting point is ~250 degrees. So while the water bath will moderate the temperature, it seems odd that it would be able to moderate the temperature by 100 degrees. Do you cook yours at a lower temperature than 350?

May 25, 2009
Sallie in Home Cooking

Plastic Wrap to Line a Terrine?!

I bought a beautiful book this weekend on making terrines of all types--veg., seafood, meat, cheese, dessert, traditional and unusual. (Terrine by Stephane Reynaud, Phaidon) It is full of things that look gorgeous and delicious. HOWEVER, many of the recipes dictate using plastic wrap to line the terrine, which is then cooked in a water bath in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes. This seems like insanity to me. Does the water bath somehow moderate the temperature effect on the plastic wrap too? It is a British book--does British "cling film" have a higher melting point? I am not really wiling to test this out on my Le Creuset terrine. I'm picturing plastic melted to the inside forever. Thoughts? Intelligence? Parchment paper instead?

May 25, 2009
Sallie in Home Cooking

Bad time at bacar

If at any time during the main course our waiter or a manager or someone had paid attention to our waving hands... I am telling you--the waiter disappeared until dessert. I could either sit there pointedly not eating while no staff member paid attention or cared, or we could eat the NY strip side first (which was fine) and go on to the gray tenderloin side after. I was so irritated and tired from spending my meal looking for various staff members that I barely had an appetite left anyway. The manager-sommelier didn't blink an eye when he came finally and I asked, "What would you recommend with the cold greasy overcooked remains?" Without missing a beat: "Something with better acidity?" Apparently he thought it was funny.

Mar 16, 2009
Sallie in San Francisco Bay Area

Bad time at bacar

So I hadn't been to bacar in a while--over a year. I had heard about the shake-ups and was curious about the new chef. Had never had a bad service experience there. I like(d) the wine program. We went to celebrate a friend's birthday.

I am not going to relate the entire two-page letter I sent them, but I will say this: I was mad enough and disgusted enough and disappointed enough to write a two-page letter. I am sure you will know what I mean when I say that when there is an initial problem in a dinner, it can go one of two ways: it can either serve as a wake-up call to a harried staff on a busy night and the dinner goes on with no hiccups thereafter; or, it can be the catalyst to a long line of mental errors that compound to create a torturous experience. In all I counted 14 separate incidents that merited mentioning in the letter.

The food was very good, with one notable exception: our double-cut porterhouse for two (a special) was overcooked. This is a tricky piece of meat to cook--the tenderloin is faster-cooking than the strip--but certainly not impossible. I would enjoin bacar's kitchen not to attempt it again. At $99 (highway robbery), it needs to be perfect. Our 3rd and 4th diners' meals were fine (scallops, chicken). Our first courses were all very good (rabbit, oysters, gnocchi with quail). The pacing of the kitchen was good.

The main problem was that the wine did not keep up with the kitchen. I don't know if this was always the case, but it appears that our waiter was either incapable of, or not allowed to, retrieve and pour our wine. The first bottle--ordered at the same time as our food--did not appear until after the first course was over and was brought by a manager. We attempted to order a second bottle of wine, but our waiter had disappeared and after 4 separate staff members were asked to send us a sommelier, no love. We received a very strange visit from the sommelier after our second course was over--he poured a glass of wine for each of us and then went away. I have never had so much trouble buying something in a commerce relationship. We were without wine for ~75% of our meal. Our waiter even admitted to staying away because he was upset by the situation. (!!!!!!!!) Other things happened that are really just incidental, and would have been forgiven if the rest of the dinner hadn't been such a monumental disaster. But what appears to have happened is that everyone on the floor, including management, just gave up. Free dessert is a throw-away, empty, dismissive gesture when offered early on and unaccompanied by any attempt to prevent further problems.

We were also seated at what is probably the worst seat in the house--upstairs above the front door--so our food got cold prematurely and my toes were numb by the time we had to go hike around SOMA looking for a cab. I have had truly good times at bad tables, though.

Anyway, it was a waste of time and money and a big disappointment. We ended up going to Tres Agaves for margaritas afterward to take the edge off our bad dinner experience.

Mar 13, 2009
Sallie in San Francisco Bay Area

"coffee" urn to use for non-coffee items

This is good to know. And really, when I think about it, my parents always used a stripped-down 1970s thing for this purpose and there were no problems. I'm just a little skeptical given the amazon review.

Dec 11, 2008
Sallie in Cookware

"coffee" urn to use for non-coffee items

Yeah, I just kind of want the spout. I always have this big sticky mess with the ladle splashing and dribbling. Is there a crock pot with a spout? Now that would be something--having dealt with a huge pot of turkey stock last night, I would have loved a spout to pour out the juice.

Seafood pot. Brainstorm. Seafood pot + stove.

Dec 11, 2008
Sallie in Cookware

Need suggestions for appetizers for 30+ people

I like these. I use some claw meat because it's cheaper and you are masking the crab flavor a little bit with the curry:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

You could try stuffed mushrooms. They're easy and can be filled with a bunch of different things. I fill them with creamed spinach or blue cheese and sausage (like breakfast sausage, cook the sausage first) but you can try whatever you like. Stuff them and bake them--~350 for 15 minutes?

Another easy one is pimiento cheese toasts. Make pimiento cheese (1lb shredded cheddar cheese, 1c. mayo, jar of chopped pimientos with juice, couple dashes worcestershire sauce and black pepper). Make light toast with thinly sliced dense bread (I use the Pepperidge Farm "very thin" bread, though I know that isn't available all over the country as I just shipped some to myself over Thanksgiving...). Spread the cheese on the toast and heat in a hot oven (~400) for about 8-10 minutes.

Dec 10, 2008
Sallie in Home Cooking

"coffee" urn to use for non-coffee items

I would like to get a large electric urn for parties--to keep things like spiced cider etc. warm. I was reading through the reviews on Amazon.com and one person mentioned that the one they purchased (a basic West Bend model) had burned the hot chocolate they put in it and almost caused a fire. The reviewer said that when contacted, the company said, "Oh yeah, you shouldn't put anything other than coffee or hot water in it; it will damage the element." But the reviewer said that there was no such warning in any of the literature about that. So basically now I don't trust any of the product descriptions and was wondering if someone has had a good experience with using another brand/model of such an urn with something other than coffee or hot water--specifically something with sugar. I am imagining that the element being inside the pot itself is the problem? Rather, something with a setup like a crockpot would work better? Is there such a model?

Dec 10, 2008
Sallie in Cookware

Need ideas for left over Prosciutto

I do saltimbocca a lot. It's fast and easy and you can do a chicken version in the oven that is pretty good and involves less tending.

Oct 15, 2008
Sallie in Home Cooking

Clam chowder recipe (N.E.)

If you want to go down the food anthropology chowder rabbit hole, I would recommend The Book of Chowder by Richard J. Hooker. It includes recipes, in chron. order, from 1751 to 1972. Apparently, traditionally, chowder was thickened using crackers. I usually use a beurre manier (flour and butter mashed up together) or pull out a few of the potatoes and mash them up and put them back in.

Basic recipe, which I use for fish chowder, clam chowder, or mixed seafood (fish and scallops, usually):

Some sort of oil to saute the onions and celery. Bacon fat, duck fat to bring it a little closer to kosher, or olive oil if I'm feeling dietish. Pull out the bacon before proceeding if you have to render it and keep it for including later or as a personal snack.

Saute 1 onion and about 3 ribs of celery in about 2 tbs. fat and a pinch of salt until they are softened.
Deglaze with sherry or white wine, about 1/4 cup and boil it down a bit.
Add about 3 cups of liquid--fish stock if you have it, juice from canned clams, chicken broth, etc. (If you can get a fish head from the market, fish stock is easy to make. Just like chicken stock but with a fish head and maybe some shrimp shells and legs from the freezer if you keep everything for such exigencies like I do.)
Add diced potatoes, from about 1 large russet potato or 2-3 med. red. I leave the skin on. Add some black pepper and thyme and a bay leaf.
Cook the potatoes, onions, and celery for about 20 minutes once you achieve a slow boil. Check your salt level and add if necessary.
Add ~1 cup cream, 1 cup frozen corn, and a beurre manier (1 tbs. flour to 1tbs. butter). Bring this back up to a simmer and cook for about 5-10 minutes, until it starts to thicken. Then add the fish/clams/etc. and some fresh tarragon and then cook for about 5 minutes more, to avoid overcooking the seafood. Finally, add the earlier cooked bacon and some chopped parsley and serve.

Disclaimer: this is not a super-traditional super-thick chowder. If you want that, you have to add more starch. You can do this the way you do a gravy--take out some of the hot stock, add a couple tbs. of cornstarch/flour/arrowroot and shake it up in a SCREW-TOP jar and return to the pot. I emphasize screw-top jar because of various Thanksgiving kitchen scalding explosions.

Oct 15, 2008
Sallie in Home Cooking

Thoughts on Laminating an Old Cookbook

I hadn't even thought of scanning it. Same effort, permanent result. Good idea!

Sep 12, 2008
Sallie in Not About Food

Thoughts on Laminating an Old Cookbook

Ha! Good find. Thank you! I didn't know about this web site. I should buy 3 or 4 and have them cryogenically frozen.

Sep 12, 2008
Sallie in Not About Food

Thoughts on Laminating an Old Cookbook

I have an old 1950s Penguin edition of Marion Brown's Southern Cook Book. I love this thing. The newer editions have been rewritten and are missing several recipes. I have been looking on eBay for a replacement and it seems hard to find. My old Penguin edition is past yellowed--it's caramel-colored. It is coming out of the binding. Is it too far gone to laminate? Will it continue to decay inside the lamination? Does anyone know about this? Am I nuts to even contemplate it?

Sep 11, 2008
Sallie in Not About Food

Grocery Store Manners

Right on. People are just not aware of their own space and the presence of others. (It's the same phenomenon as people getting on an elevator and standing in front of the buttons. Yes sir, it is possible that you and I might not be going to the same floor. Get your crotch away from the buttons so I can push #4.) And I think that the outrage boils down to this: some people are in a hurry and think everyone should get out of their way; some people are not in a hurry and think nobody else should be either. Both are obnoxious and selfish.

I've had carts jammed into my ankle because the person pushing the cart was too passive aggressive to bother saying "excuse me." I've caught myself sighing loudly as the person parked diagonally across the aisle picks up one more item to stare at the label. So I've been on both sides of that and I endeavor to be a better person every day because I genuinely like going to the grocery store and dont' like it spoiled with bad feelings. I don't mind the altekachers (sp?) or the kids or the crazy people on their cell phones. I do mind the stock guy who always wants to hug me.

The very worst thing I've ever seen that completely takes the cake is leaving the empty cart at the head of the check-out line after you've finished unloading it, and walking away with a bag of groceries so that the person behind you has to push both your and her cart through. This is especially bad with the car-driving kiddie carts that are like 7 feet long.

Sep 11, 2008
Sallie in Not About Food

French Fries and a Drink at Spruce

I love their charcuterie. I love that I can take a semi-kosher friend there and there are a bunch of duck options on the charcuterie platter. I love that there are a ton of by-the-glass options so you can progress with the courses. I love that you can eat in the bar area and get a real table and the full menu and a real server who talks to you like a real person. Everyone on the staff I've dealt with has been very very cool. Am very high on Spruce right now. I'm even trying to manufacture a reason to rent that small private room up front.

Sep 11, 2008
Sallie in San Francisco Bay Area

What does everyone think of farallon?

I have eaten there on several occasions. It is a frustrating place; I am either thrilled afterwards or really really p***ed off.

The food is very good most of the time. I made the mistake of ordering a steak there once (it's a seafood place) and it was vastly overcooked. The potatoes accompanying it were nigh on inedible. They were like those bad "breakfast potatoes" at second-rate brunch places--greasy, undercooked and burnt around the edges with crunchy onions throughout.

Things I like: 1) They get the caviar presentation right. People like different things with their caviar, and rather than going whole hog fist down on the red onions, for example, they also include chives. And egg, creme fraiche, capers, etc. Things are cut in reasonable sizes, no huge chunks of onion to contend with. 2) Sweetbreads appetizer. I think the last couple of times I've had it there were mushrooms with it? Both times ordering it was nice. 3) It's hard to name a fish dish, because they change with the season, availability, etc. Halibut in SF is almost always a good bet because it's from around here. I had a dorade one time that was phenomenal. Many good options. Have had no fish problems. 4) And, last but not least, as with many of Pat Kuleto's restaurants, the wine list is deep and interesting--i.e., it's not overly California-ed. Good assortment of half bottles too. Though as I recall, it lacks depth in the champagne area: brut, brut, brut, brut, brut....zzzzz. If they could just get a good champagne blend on the list (if you're listening, Farallon wine director, how about a nice Henriot?), I might just hang out at the drafty bar and get the caviar.

There is a seating issue: the upstairs is extremely drafty and there is an odd mezzanine spot that nobody wants to sit in. When I went last, my mother was visiting and I asked the host to sit in the main dining room. It's super-cool--the inside of an old pool with an old mosaic ceiling, and filled with exuberant sea urchin light fixtures. The host first tried to put us upstairs, then in the odd little mezzanine with the walk-ins in sweatshirts. I vowed never to return, as I was told firmly that we had to sit in the mezzanine and there were no tables available in the main dining room, and then promptly afterward, the people who came in after us (also a group of 3) were taken into the main dining room. While there were what looked like about 5 people as older management types roaming around, the front desk was being "manned" by what looked like a 17-year-old twerp. And the older management types stand together from time to time talking smack about the diners, which I was able to overhear from my perch on the mezzanine. Of course, a bad situation can be fixed by good food and a good server. The time before that, when I was seated in the drafty upstairs, our waiter was so charming and the food was so delicious that I almost forgot I was huddled under three layers of cashmere. (Though this might seem unnecessary information in early September, I might note that my dog is sleeping in front of a fire in her sweater right now.)

Taken all together, I like it. And I don't. Maybe I'm a grumpus, but there are a lot of good places here in SF that have $40 entrees. A 50-50 score for me is not enough. But I can bet I'll go back on that claim and go back to Farallon again.

Sep 09, 2008
Sallie in San Francisco Bay Area